‘Pay With a Poem’ and Four More Ways to Celebrate World Poetry Day

March 21 is World Poetry Day:

pay1) Go to a coffeeshop and pay with a poem. There are participating cafes in the UAE, UK, Tajikistan, China, South Korea, Russia, Australia, and all over central and eastern Europe. Plus one lonely coffeeshop in Chicago, USA. Is there one near you? Check the #PayWithAPoem map. If there’s not, urge your local coffeeshop to take part next year.

2) Support an imprisoned poet. PEN is running a World Poetry Day campaign on behalf of Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, currently serving a 15-year sentence. Messages of support should be sent to Mohammed al-Ajami at Doha Central Prison, Salwa Road, Al Rayan, Doha, State of Qatar. And please don’t forget jailed Egyptian poet and novelist Omar Hazek. Read a new poem of his. Translate it into English. Read other poems. Send a letter. And don’t forget.

PEN also features work by four other imprisoned poets on their website.

3) Introduce yourself to a new poet. Since we’re counting by 5s, then 5 recommendations from 2014: Amjad Nasser’s Petratrans. Fady Joudah; Venus Khoury-Ghata’s PEN-longlisted Where are the Trees Going?, trans. Marilyn Hacker; Najwan Darwish’s Nothing More to Losetrans. Kareem James Abu-Zeid; Qassim Haddad’s Chronicles of Majnun Laylatrans. John Verlenden and Ferial Ghazoul; The Tahrir of Poems: Seven Contemporary Egyptian Poets, ed. and trans. Maged Zaher.

4) Poetry is, UNESCO folks write, “the mainstay of oral tradition.” Recite aloud. But choose something that’s fun to recite aloud, like Badr Shakir al-Sayyab’s “Rain Song.”

5) Watch a poem. Watch poetry films by Syrian poet Ghayath al-Madhoun, a filmpoem of Egyptian poet Mahmoud Ezzat’s “Prayer of Fear,” produced by Moisireen, or Iraqi poet Zaher Moussa’s “Born to Die,” produced by Ryan Van Winkle.

And a bonus for those celebrating Mother’s Day: Mahmoud Darwish on his mom.


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